A battle is heating up in Washington, D.C., over a controversial assisted suicide law that would grant terminally ill patients the right to die by using a doctor-prescribed medication.
Conservative members of Congress have been working to overturn the law, which was passed by the D.C. city council and signed by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser back in December; the measure isn’t slated to take effect until at least October.
Debate over the matter is quite complex. Despite the fact that the bill overwhelmingly passed the city council 11-2 and was signed by Bowser, Congress has the legal right to overturn laws in the commonwealth due to the geographic area’s unique constitutional standing — but such action has rarely been taken over the past few decades.
With that in mind, on Monday, members of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee used their congressional power to vote 22-14 against the assisted-suicide measure.
Some members of Congress cited purported flaws with the law itself, while others pointed to their pro-life stance to explain their opposition. In the end, the move was rare, considering that Congress has only stepped into D.C. politics a few times.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), for one, worried the law would usher in “a marketplace for death,” adding, “Our country should never facilitate, encourage or tacitly accept measures that prematurely end the lives of its people.”
And while the issue is certainly emotional, there’s also a fascinating legal debate surrounding the right of local jurisdictions to self-govern. It’s an issue raised by Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s congressional representative, Reuters reported.
“We are asking you to agree with American doctrine that local laws are for local residents,” Norton said on Monday.
Others, like Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, agreed.
“None of us was elected by D.C. voters. None of us served in the D.C. city council, where the Death with Dignity Act was approved,” the congressman said, according to the Washington Post. “None of the members of this committee would stand for congressional interference in their own state and local affairs, and none of us should stand for it in this case.”
One Republican — Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) — voted against derailing the D.C. assisted-suicide measure, saying he didn’t see justification for doing so, as NPR reported.
It’s unclear whether the D.C. law can or will truly be halted, as both the House and Senate would need to vote on the measure and send it to Trump by Friday, as the 30-day review period ends on Saturday.
This leaves Republicans very little time to bring the issue before both houses of Congress, though, even if the deadline is missed, the law could be restricted by inserting language into a spending bill, according to The Associated Press.
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